The Cuban government has a way of reminding the world that it’s not all that great. In fact, some would argue that it’s pura mierda. Reporting from the U.S. indicates Cuba is corrupt and infested with greedy privileged characters at the highest levels who have been profiting from the misery of the people.

But while the Cuban government has much to be criticized for, let’s stop pretending the United States has been innocent over the last six decades. Let’s also stop acting like the situation in Cuba is a story with a single narrative akin to some sort of white-washed lullaby as the propaganda created by the Department of State suggests.

Instead, let’s talk about the broad support for the regime in Cuba. At its root, the foundation of the support stems from two of the most prominent issues: the treatment of Cuba by the United States and the equality as a result of socialist policies enacted after the Revolution in 1959. And while many argue that U.S. sanctions have no impact on the Cuban people, that’s only among propagandists in Miami.

Studies estimate the economic damage leveled on the Cuban economy over the last 60 years at about $130 billion. The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation’s 2021 Index of Economic Freedom attributes the lack of Cuba’s economic growth in part to U.S. sanctions. Studies also show that Cuba’s annual economic growth of 1.2 percent (as opposed to 6 to 7 percent) is partly the result of economic sanctions unilaterally imposed on the island nation by the United States.

The other part of the equation, and arguably the most responsible for the lack of economic growth, is the Cuban government itself. Had Cuba heeded the advice of Vietnam’s and China’s governments and introduced free market principles, Cuba’s economic opportunities could have grown exponentially and potentially lifted the Cuban people out of poverty.

There may be plenty of blame to go around but if the sanctions don’t work, why keep them in place? If Cuba is destined to fail, why not let it fail on its own? What’s the point of the continued intervention and isolation when the U.S. and Cuba could be kind neighbors despite their differences in governing?

The people of Cuba want a socio-capitalist market economy like those boasted by Vietnam and China. But will the U.S. accept Cuba’s broadly supported governance if that is the future for the island?

More importantly, will those seeking regime change with their disguised motivations be open to what the people on the island want? The impression from the rhetoric on social media coming out of Miami is that they won’t accept it. To which we should be asking: Is it really the Cuban people they’re out to protect? Because if they’re not interested in listening to the people on the island, we shouldn’t be interested in listening to them. It’s that simple.

Change In U.S. Policy Is Needed

Regardless of how you look at the sanctions, they’ve failed to accomplish what the Department of State set out to do. On April 6, 1960, a memorandum from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester Mallory to Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Roy Rudbottom titled “The Decline and Fall of Castro” states: “It follows that every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.”

This is precisely what has led to where things stand today.

That memo from over 60 years ago became the basis for U.S. policy toward Cuba. “If such a policy is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of the government,” the memo continued.

When looking at how Cubans abroad are forced to interact with friends and family, the statement still holds today.

We are in the “bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of the government” part of the plan. But according to the Department of State, we’ve been here for more than 40 years. Yet, no matter how hard the U.S. tries, they can never seem to overthrow the Cuban government as they have countless times throughout Latin America.

And the mostly Black and mulatto Cuban people left on the island after the white flight following the revolution will tell you that they are far too resilient to let imperialists push them around.

As the United States once again normalized its relationship with communist China and maintained its partnership with Vietnam, one has to wonder about the sudden shift in the acceptance of communism when it comes to Cuba. We all know China and Vietnam —and the U.S.— have horrid human rights records, yet the U.S. looks the other way in those cases.

Nothing the Cuban government has ever done even comes close to what each of those countries has done. Yet, we find ourselves tossing hyperbole around about Cuba, using loaded language as if Cuba were the same or even worse. It isn’t.

There is no justifying the actions of any of these countries, including Cuba when it comes to repression. The Cuban government’s actions during the protests on July 11, 2021, speak for themselves. However, the United States needs a better understanding of why the country’s leadership has so much support in Cuba.

Citizens of the U.S. need to stop listening to one side of the conversation and open the doors to hearing the people on the island. You can’t win their support if you don’t understand them.

Change In Demographics

In his memoir, Pichón: Race and Revolution in Castro’s Cuba, Dr. Carlos Moore discusses the change in demographics on the island: “Cuba is at least 62 percent Black, and the Cuban-American community that wants to play a dominant role in Cuba is 90 percent White,” Dr. Moore writes.

“The U.S. needs to have a better understanding of what the majority of the Black Cuban populations want, rather than being stuck with the old policy of reacting solely to what the predominantly white Cuban-American community wants,” continued Dr. Moore.

The words of Dr. Moore help highlight the differences in political opinion and ideology along racial lines among Cubans. This leads others to see something during the protests on July 11, 2021: the anti-government leaders, wearing white shirts, were mostly white themselves, while the pro-government voices that repudiated them, who typically wear red shirts, were mostly Black and mulatto. The shirts helped define the disparity by drawing a visible line.

It’s an awareness that can’t be shaken.

Not to say the protests are racially motivated, but race plays a bigger role in Cuba than people care to admit. Before Castro, non-white Cubans were denied access to housing, parks, and certain public places. They were considered wage slaves beholden to white landowners and at the mercy of white politicians. After the revolution, despite Castro refusing to address racism and bigotry, everyone had equal access to education, housing, healthcare, public parks, and more.

Castro’s refusal to confront racism led Cuba to a place that today resembles the racism of the 1950s. For example, with no process in place to report discrimination, resorts didn’t hire Black and mulatto Cubans to work in public-facing positions. However, since the government implemented practices to address and report racism, it’s no longer a prevalent issue.

This analysis represents the tip of the iceberg when discussing race and politics for Cubans. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that generations of white Cubans are no longer present on the island after the white flight from Cuba. As such, the island has only become Blacker over the last six decades with generations born into what is normal life for them but an aberration to others.

Dozens of socio-political markers highlight the driving force behind the chasm that defines the political differences of Cubans along racial lines. It’s time the U.S. stopped ignoring them.

Social Capilaist Utopia

My views on Cuba come from my being Cuban, talking to Cubans on the island (who should be given more credibility), and from the stories mi Abuela shared with me when she moved to the U.S. to spend her final years with us and her grandkids. The near-constant reports I receive during times of protest and the dozens of friends I’ve made on the island are who I echo.

Of course, there will be disagreement with some of the sentiments shared here. But I share them for my people in Cuba.

Whether you like it or not, these are the things to be made aware of. It’s only fair to give the voices of Cubans on the island space here in the U.S. They deserve to be heard. We can’t keep leaving them out of the conversation.

So what happens when Cuba adopts a free market economy like its allies? What happens if poverty is all but abolished as a result of such policy shifts?

Such possibilities would undeniably open the door to many more freedoms, all of which will surely be glorified on the island boosting morale and support for the government. These are hypotheticals but both are closer than you realize—and almost happened once already.

So, what then? The answer is somewhat simple. Capitalists and socialists alike will hail Cuba a success as long as they are granted access – which is what U.S. corporations want. When the United States helps overthrow governments in Latin America, it’s done on behalf of U.S. corporate interests so they can gain access to resources and infrastructure.

You’ve seen all the bending-over-backward companies do to maintain access to China and Vietnam. Those same corporations are already clamoring for a piece of the Cuban pie.

And they’ll take it any way they can get it.


The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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